Full schedules & scores
U-Hi’s Tanner Orndorff, above right, prepares to practice with his big little brother, Tate, while father, Dave, watches and coaches. (Jesse Tinsley)

Raising Orndorffs

Brothers at University thrive on the mat with able assistance of father

Tanner and Tate Orndorff, the youngest two of four brothers and a cousin to wrestle at University, are having stellar seasons. Chalk it up to hard work and good, if late-blooming, lineage.

Dark-haired and chiseled Tanner, a senior, is the poster child for late maturation, having gained an astounding 50 pounds, up to 195 one year after competing at 145. He has been better at the higher weight than he was the three previous years where he began as a freshman 119-pounder.

“I don’t know of too many people who put on 50 pounds in a year,” U-Hi coach Don Owen said. “(As a result) he’s an upper-weight kid who knows how to wrestle.”

Blond sophomore Tate is built more like his father, Dave, competing at 220 pounds last year and 15 pounds heavier this season.

“Tate looks like a third-grader in the face,” Owen said. “He’s just growing into his body and is going to be one heck of a force to reckon with next year and the year after that.”

Both have yet to qualify for a state tournament, but don’t bet against them this year.

Tanner has dominated in the Greater Spokane League, won three tournaments and finished third at the Rocky Mountain Classic in Missoula where he lost by one point to Central Valley star Tanner Davis in the semifinals.

Tate also is perfect in league, and has a couple tournament finals appearances despite being in a weight class normally reserved for older, more mature individuals.

Recently the brothers sat in an office across from the Titans wrestling room, joined later by their dad and Titans assistant, to discuss the family tree.

Dave is a bear of a man with a teddy bear’s mien. He compiled a two-year 55-9 wrestling record for Oregon State, leading the Beavers in pins in 1987 and becoming an All-American heavyweight finalist in the NCAA tournament the next year. He was also a two-year letterman center in football.

Dave’s brother, Mat, Lewis and Clark’s wrestling coach, won 95 matches in four years at OSU, finishing fourth in nationals 11 years later.

Dave’s older son, Tegan, placed seventh in state at heavyweight in 2011. A cousin, Adrian, took fourth for U-Hi in state last year at 152.

“I didn’t wrestle until my sophomore year in high school,” Dave said. But the quick learner finished second in state for Kent-Meridian, and spent two years at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, to pursue both football and wrestling before moving to Corvallis.

A job opportunity led to the family’s move to Spokane Valley from Western Washington. He volunteered to assist Central Valley’s 1998 State 4A champions before eventually winding up at U-Hi.

“I needed an upper-weights coach and gave him a call,” Owen said. “He had younger kids coming so it was a good fit. It’s unbelievable how nimble he is for a big man. There is a gentleness about him. He connects one-on-one with kids and since we’ve had him we’ve been nails in the upper weights.”

Dave said he never pushed his sons. “Tanner told me in no uncertain terms he wasn’t going to wrestle. I just wanted them to do what they wanted to do. I always told them I’d take them anywhere they wanted to go.”

Tanner saw the light and the brothers’ joint desire is paying dividends.

“They are fierce workers,” Owen said. “They’re self-driven, especially Tanner.”

Tanner didn’t have a great deal of success early in his career and had a disappointing end to his season last year. But technique learned competing in the lower weights and the combination of new-found size and the quickness of a smaller wrestler gives him an edge over upper-weights opponents.

Plus, “I also have a real good workout partner in my brother,” he said.

When they bang heads the intensity level increases in the practice room.

The emphasis for “big little brother” Tate has been on proper position more than anything.

“I felt I lost a lot of matches because I had no strength,” he said. “But I wrestled a lot over the summer and Dad helped me out a lot.”

He went undefeated both in freestyle and Greco-Roman classifications traveling with Washington’s Cadet wrestling team to matches against other states.

Both were starters on University’s top-four-finishing football team, Tanner on defense, Tate on offense. That sweet taste of success, devotion in the weight room and hard work in the practice room has steeled for wrestling.

The late-blooming Orndorffs can’t wait to see how far it takes them.